Fine Gael may have come out on top in this year’s European elections by taking four seats, but they’re by no means what the majority of Europe is looking for. Deirdre Clune and Seán Kelly edged out fellow party member Simon Harris on the 12th count of the South constituency, meaning that they will join Fianna Fáil’s Brian Crowley, who easily exceeded the quota on the first count, and Sinn Féin’s Liadh Ní Riada in Brussels when the Eighth European Parliament convenes on 1 July. In Dublin, Lynn Boylan of Sinn Féin, who is contesting only her second ever election, won easily, with Brian Hayes (Fine Gael) and Nessa Childers (Independent) completing the trio after the Green Party’s Eamon Ryan called a recount after fears of missing ballot boxes.
Counting in Midlands-North-West has yet to conclude, however, with Fine Gael’s Máiréad McGuinness and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan already elected, it is looking like Matt Carthy (Sinn Féin) will take the third seat, with a fight between Marian Harkin (Independent) and Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher (Fianna Fáil) for the final spot. After count 6, it is Harkin who is looking good, with Gallagher needing more than 31,404 transfers from party colleague Thomas Byrne to edge her out.
If the seats are allocated as above, Fine Gael will have four seats, Sinn Féin will finish with three, Independents will also have three, and Fianna Fáil will get one MEP. If divided into their European Groupings, the Ireland has given the EPP four seats, the GUE/NGL three seats and the ALDE two seats. It is likely that Flanagan and Childers will be Non-Inscrits.
Despite the rise in Euro scepticism all across Europe, Ireland still has seven Eurocentric MEPs, out of 11, with the rise in the Sinn Féin vote being partly down to a sense of frustration with the other mainstream parties, and partly due to Labour’s (and the S&D’s) ability to stand up against austerity. This feeling of anger at Labour has not been felt in other parts of Europe, as the Socialists & Democrats grouping has increased their share of seats by at least eight, bringing their total to at least 192. This gain is not enough to overtake the centre-right EPP though, as even though they have lost at least at least 55 seats, they are still the largest party in Parliament, with at least 210 seats. Despite the Grand Coalition of the two parties having an overall majority in the Parliament, the previously large gap between the parties has been bridged, which should result in a relaxation of the austerity policies that many economists across Europe and the world have called archaic and ill-timed.
Many people feel however that this will not happen unless drastic action is taken, with this election seeing the rise of populist Euro scepticism throughout the continent, coming from both the far-left and the far-right. In Germany, Alternative for Germany (AfD) has won seven seats, with seven more new parties gaining an MEP each. These include the extreme fascists National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), who have been called the successors to Hitler’s National Socialists. Also worrying is the Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn of Greece, who have secured three seats. The anti-immigrant National Front (FN) have won an extra 21 seats, bringing their total to 24, meaning that they are now the largest party in France. The United Kingdom’s UKIP have also become their country’s largest party, also with 24 seats. Leader Nigel Farage has called it “the most extraordinary result that has been seen in British politics for 100 years”. Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) now has 17 MEPs, whilst Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) has lost a seat. Another anti-immigrant party, the Danish People’s Party (DF), has won four seats, also making it a national leader. On the far-left, Alex Tsipras’ SYRIZA and Potami have won eight seats for the GUE/NGL, six and two respectively, and Spain’s United Left (IU) have won five seats. Other smaller anti-EU and populist parties have also gained seats
Whilst significantly gaining ground, both the hard-left and right have still fallen way short of a majority, compared to the more Eurocentric parties, meaning that they will have to wait at least another five years to have any real impact on policy. The ball is most definitely in their court though, and time will tell if they can deliver on their populist messages, or whether their ambitious talk prior to the election was just that.